The Difference Between CBD & THC

The Difference Between CBD & THC

If you are new to CBD products or you just want to know the difference between the two compounds, CBD and THC, let’s dive in and compare the two. Users may prefer CBD as it is not psychoactive like THC and CBD has less possible side effects.

Note: CBD products should only be used as a supplement to help support your health. You should always seek the advice of a medical professional if you plan to take CBD.

In This Article

What is the Difference Between CBD & THC?
Chemical Structure of CBD & THC
How Does CBD & THC Affect the Body?
  • CBD
  •  THC
Health Benefits
  • Potential Benefits of CBD
  • Potential Benefits of THC
Side Effects
  • Side Effects of CBD
  • Side Effects of THC
Drug Testing
Legality
Sources

What is the Difference Between CBD & THC?

The more research suggests the growth and progress when it comes to the benefits of cannabis, the more consumers want to know about their options.

The main difference between CBD and THC is that while they are both present in cannabis and hemp, THC is psychoactive and CBD is not.

The amount of THC found in cannabis is greater than that of CBD, while the amount of CBD in hemp is greater than that of THC. In order for hemp to be legal, the concentration levels of THC must be lower than 0.3 percent.

Pure CBD isn’t intoxicating, and it allows users to reap the benefits without the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD can be found in a range of forms including gels, gummies, oils, supplements and extracts. 

THC is the compound in cannabis that makes you feel high, but it also has been shown to have some health benefits.

So when you take products or supplements containing THC, you may experience the high sensation that is associated with cannabis, which you do not get when taking products containing CBD.

Chemical Structure of CBD & THC

The chemical structure of the compounds CBD and THC are not the same. While the two compounds have the same molecular structure, (21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms), the atoms are arranged differently. As a result, the effect they have is very different.

When CBD and THC bind themselves to the receptors in and around the body, this may have an effect on the immune system, stress and sleep. Both CBD and THC work by sending messages to the brain and they do this by reacting to our body’s receptors. They can do this because both compounds are chemically similar to the body’s endocannabinoids.

The interaction affects the release of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells and have roles in immune function, stress, and sleep, to name a few.

How Does CBD & THC Affect the Body?

Despite originating from the same plant species, CBD and THC each affect the body in different ways. CBD is associated with overall wellbeing, while THC affects your mood and your mind rather than your entire body.

We discuss the many differences below:

CBD

Cannabinoids react with the cannabinoid receptors in and around our body. CBD is used to stimulate and support the body’s endocannabinoid system by binding to these receptors, resulting in many potential benefits.

Due to the non-psychoactive properties of CBD, it doesn’t produce the high sensation associated with THC but it has the potential to affect your mood, your appetite, your immune responses and sleep.

We cover more on how CBD can affect and improve your quality of sleep here.

 THC

Like CBD, THC reacts with the cannabinoid receptors in our body, but its focus is on the brain and the digestive system, rather than the body as a whole.

Its psychoactive properties produce the high sensation associated with cannabis. THC affects the body via increased appetite, slowed reaction time (which can impair driving skills), impaired memory and coordination and altered mental state. A user may experience these effects almost instantly.

Health Benefits

Research into the benefits of both CBD and THC are in their infancy. It’s important to note that at present, CBD products are predominantly used as a supplement and not a treatment for health conditions.

Many users of CBD and THC have reported health benefits, but if you have any health condition you should talk to your healthcare professional about any supplements before taking them.

Let’s compare the ways in which CBD and THC are reported to support health:

Potential Benefits of CBD

Research studies surrounding CBD and its benefits are still in the early stages, with new advantages and uses being discovered all the time. If you have questions on whether CBD may be right for you, it’s always best to talk to your healthcare professional.

Early evidence suggests there is a potential that CBD can have benefits for the following, with further research required:

Source: Research Gate

  • Anti-inflammatory: CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, which is perhaps why millions of people have used it to help them with muscle soreness following exercise.
  • Calming stress relief: Studies have shown this compound to have a calming effect which is why it is used to reduce the effects that stress can have.
  • Promotes sleep: Research into the effects of CBD on sleep is still preliminary, but some people who use CBD have reported sleeping better.

Potential Benefits of THC

While several studies and clinical trials have suggested that THC has the potential to provide health benefits concerning pain management and conditions affecting the support of mental health, stress and sleep patterns, most are yet to be substantiated.

Research into the health benefits of THC are still ongoing. In addition, over half of US states have made “medical marijuana'' legal, which means in order to use it you must have a doctor's prescription.

You should always seek advice from a medical professional or healthcare practitioner before using any of these products.

Side Effects

Generally, both CBD and THC are well tolerated. But that’s not to say that side effects don’t occur, and both CBD and THC have potential side effects. Let’s explore how the two compounds differ when it comes to side effects.

Please remember, it’s best to check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are already taking prescribed medication.

Side Effects of CBD

Though it’s often well-tolerated, some of the possible side effects of CBD include the following:

  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea

Side Effects of THC

Because THC possesses psychoactive properties, you may experience some temporary side effects when using it, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Slower reaction times
  • Coordination problems

We always advise caution and speak with a medical professional before taking any products containing THC.

There is a lot of research on the relation between high THC use and long-term negative effects on mental health, but so far, there is no connection between cannabis use and psychiatric disorders. For further information on the potential side effects of CBD or THC, the FDA has this guidance.

Drug Testing

A key consideration for using CBD and THC is whether they show up on drug tests. This also leads us to one of the differences between the two compounds. Most standard blood tests will not detect CBD as most drug tests are not programmed to detect it, but will detect THC.

Bear in mind that CBD-sensitive tests are available, but most product drug tests are screening for THC and this is what will be detected. THC is detectable for up to a month in urine.

While most CBD products are THC-free, there are some that contain trace amounts of THC. Products with more than 0.3% THC content are illegal and should therefore be avoided.  For total peace of mind, choose a CBD formula that is below 0.3% or even THC free.

Legality

If you are wondering whether CBD or THC are legal in your area, you should check the cannabis laws that apply to your state. Cannabis-related laws are updated all the time, so do your research to make sure the information you are reading is up to date.

Since the 2018 Farm Bill, Hemp is legal in the United States as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. Products that contain THC in excess of 0.3% are illegal. Cannabis that contains higher levels of THC is now listed as marijuana and remains a Schedule I drug.

As part of the Farm Bill in December 2018, Congress legalized hemp. But there are still rules surrounding where and how you can sell products that contain CBD.

So, there you have it, the many differences between CBD and THC. You can learn more about CBD products and the science behind them here.

Sources

Research Gate - Which other benefits and effects to do you feel from CBD?

FDA - FDA Approves New Indication for Drug Containing an Active Ingredient Derived from Cannabis to Treat Seizures in Rare Genetic Disease

NCBI - The Impact of THC and CBD in Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review

NCSL State Medical Cannabis Laws

USDA – Farm Bill